“…Consider, again, the highly dichotomous film Avatar, which sets itself against the managerialism of modern man. The military forces that are the villains of the narrative are oriented towards a single object — unobtainium — and use instrumental reason and technology to achieve their desired end, regardless of the means, and regardless of the more complex and distributed forces that they will need to encounter to secure unobtainium. Pandora’s Navi’I, by contast, inhabit a world that is—in the words of the sympathetic character portrayed by Sigourney Weaver — structured like a “neural network.” The Navi’I communicate with the animals they ride and their surrounding fauna not by command, but by touch. The film is at once a post-humanist manifesto—targeting the man of technology and reason in favor of an affective, interconnected and communal whole — at the same time as it is an ultra-humanist reaction formation: the Navi’I are indeed avatars, images of a new ideal of humanity. What renders the Navi’I ultrahuman rather than inhuman is that they exemplify the values of responsive selfpresence that have always defined man against the mere inertia of things. This is not a haptocentric world, in which a privileged being is elevated due to its capacity for self-presence, while all else is left out of touch. Rather, everything is proximate to everything else, in one grand self-communicating whole.
When Bruno Latour opened his compositionist manifesto by referring to Avatar, and linked the film to the Gaia hypothesis, he reinforced a widespread thesis of mindfulness: the world is not inert matter blessed with the capacity to be represented and known by subjects. The world itself possesses living and self-organising properties. More importantly, the world as it is known follows from its capacity to affect, just as our being — our identity — emerges from the various ways in which we are affected. The world of Pandora in Avatar is a post-human (ultra-human) eco-utopia, not simply because it is composed of affective relations, in which bodies relate not by way of externally imposed systems (logic, language) but by affective communication and proximity, but also because it is like a neural network. There has been a reaction against the isolated and
distanced man of reason, who affects himself in order to be present to himself, along with a turn towards the neural paradigm. The brain, formerly and mistakenly perceived as a computer, is now — we are constantly reminded — not a central command centre, but a responsive, adaptive, distributed, dynamic, affective and embodied system. This new neural paradigm was articulated in the works of Maturana and Varela, who
tellingly also referred to Buddhism’s model of an ego-less consciousness that is nothing other than its relation to the world. The legitimated and science-based theories of the brain as less like a computer and more like a coupled and responsive system intersect with a wide range of fictional and non-fictional genres, such as Avatar but also popular science, mysticism and contemporary cultural production…”

from  hypo-hyper-hapto-neuro-mysticism by claire colebrook


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